Blinded by the Light – the Parable of the Moth

Posted: February 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Blinded by the Light – the Parable of the Moth

This article and write-up had its naissance thanks to an article which was linked to the Huffington Post.  That article, entitled, Anything Beyond the Universe?  New Theory Changes Our Destiny[1], was a thought provoking article on what we view as reality – constructs of time and space – and how that may be changing.  I would encourage all to read it before continuing on here.

There are numerous aspects from that article from which I could create and write an article, though it may not do justice to the true parable of the Moth as it plays itself out in our individual lives.  The paragraph and statement, however, which jumped out on me was a statement on moths.  Moths, as those who have seen them in action can attest, love light.  Turn on a light in the dark of night and a moth will flock to it for reasons I do not understand.  Turn on another light, and the moth will likely float along to that light, trying to penetrate the glass that houses the light.  The moth will likely, then, fly around between the available lights for hours on end.  This will continue until either the person watching the moth will try to free the moth from the madness of the scene, until the moth dies, or until some other unfortunate incident occurs.

To a moth, this scene tells a vastly different story and, although this article will discuss how we humans can learn something from this evolutionary dance, I feel obliged to share some of the studies done on the moths and their attraction to light.  There are, according to the brief research I did on this topic, at least two schools of thought on why moths are attracted to light sources.  One such school of thought is represented by Dr. Henry Hsaio, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina, while the other, for the purposes of this article, will be represented by Dr. May Berenbaum, Head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois.

Henry Hsaio has stated in some moth studies that moths exhibit two kinds of behavior:  (1) when they’re distant from a light source they are drawn to the light source and make a beeline straight to it; and, (2) once the moths are in close proximity to the light source, the moth actually tries to avoid the light.[2] In trying to avoid the light, these same moths are seeing in vision the “Mach band.”  The Mach band, which can be seen by all sighted creatures, is the “region surrounding a bright light that seems darker than any other part of the sky.”[3] Hsaio, in his studies, postulated that the moth, in trying to fly within the Mach band, is actually seeking out the darkest part of the sky, which, according to Hsaio, is the safest area for the moths.  This theory also suggests that moths, who try and hide themselves in the daytime from predators, view the light source as a signal of morning light and are trying to seek that light and find a hiding place.

Dr. Berenbaum, in an interview with NPR discussed a slightly different view.[4] The “standard line of explanation,” according to Berenbaum, suggests that moths and other nocturnal insects use “celestial navigation” as a way of orienting themselves in the dark, much the same way man has done for centuries.  The reason moths, supposedly, are attracted to porch lights and the like is because these lights take on a “terrestrial” point source in their minds, much the same way sea turtles can be distracted by porch lights on the beach while they look for the moon to signal when they should head back to sea.[5]

When you step back to consider these schools of thought, they really aren’t that much different.  In essence, the moths are (a) disoriented by the false light, (b) distracted by the false light and (c) nevertheless seeking refuge in the light.  Obviously, taking these results and applying them to ourselves individually, there are potentially many lessons we can learn.  While I do not intend to expound each of these ideas, there is yet a further idea I would like to discuss – namely what we see when we witness this “light dance.”

It could be said, and indeed it has been said, that these moths are completely oblivious to their surroundings when a false light (by false light, I mean any source that isn’t natural – like celestial objects) comes into their view.  They, as mentioned in both of the articles on the two different schools of thought, make a “beeline” for the source of light and use that light to either seek refuge from the predators of the night, or to orient themselves on their travels.  Neither goal is achieved, unfortunately, in this “light dance.”  What is achieved, however, is a complete and total distraction to what is happening all around them.

Robert Lanza, in the original article from the Huffington Post, shared something that Loren Eiseley once wrote on this very subject:

“While I was sitting one night with a poet friend watching a great opera performed in a tent under arc lights, the poet took my arm and pointed silently. Far up, blundering out of the night, a huge Cecropia moth swept past from light to light over the posturings of the actors. ‘He doesn’t know,’ my friend whispered excitedly. ‘He’s passing through an alien universe brightly lit but invisible to him. He’s in another play; he doesn’t see us. He doesn’t know. Maybe it’s happening right now to us.”

This statement should, hopefully, elicit some internal yearnings to better understand the universe in which we individually live.  Are we, like the huge Cecropia moth, blundering on in the darkness, oblivious to the universe which is all around us?  Are we ignorant to the realities that present themselves in our everyday lives, simply because we aren’t really paying attention to what is going on around us?  Maybe, just maybe, it is happening right now to us.

This thought, so eloquently set forth by Eiseley, isn’t without scriptural support.  The Doctrine & Covenants discuss, in a veiled way, what it means to walk in darkness – a metaphor which has direct application to this discussion:

For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to aprune my vineyard for the last time, that I may bring to pass my bstrange act, that I may cpour out my Spirit upon all flesh—But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are achosen.  They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are awalking in bdarkness at noon-day. … If you akeep not my commandments, the blove of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall cwalk in darkness.[6]

The meaning of this scripture may get lost in the cracks of our everyday lives, but it is directly applicable to us, today.  We are those who are walking at “noon-day” in that we fail to see the light shining all around us.  Whereas the moth is distracted from the universe which surrounds it because of false light sources, we are distracted from the universe which surrounds us because we glory in the darkness.  To be fair, we may not “glory” in the darkness, but all too frequently we reject the light because we “per-ceive” it not.  The light, much like the example of the moths, is not hidden from us mortals, but all too often we choose not to “see” that light.  The light which I am referring to, I hope, would be obvious to the reader.  That light is none other than Christ.

For, behold, it is I that speak; behold, I am the alight which shineth in darkness, and by my bpower I give these words unto thee.  … Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the life and the blight of the world.[7]

I am the alight which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not[8].

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the same that came unto mine bown, and mine own received me not. I am the clight which shineth in ddarkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.[9]

Similarly, Christ reiterates this same idea throughout the New Testament.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the alight of the world: he that followeth me shall not bwalk in cdarkness, but shall have the light of life[10].

Whereas the moth is attracted to a false light source, mistaking it for a celestial body which it uses to guide itself on its journeys, we tend to mistake darkness for light.  We view our surroundings, the false paradigms of our worlds, the chasing after money, goods, possessions, “that … which doth corrupt the soul,”[11] as the purpose of our existence.  And, if not the purpose, certainly something worth spending the majority of our life chasing after.  If that is not the purpose of our existence, then why do we spend the vast majority of our time laboring after those things which, according to Isaiah, “satisfieth not?”  (see Isaiah 55:2).  It seems nonsensical, when you think about it.  Looking at the things on which we spend our energy and resources, it’s no wonder Christ states that we are “walking in darkness at noon-day.”  We’re so distracted and overwhelmed with “life” that we forget the reasons why we are here on earth.

Christ himself describes this darkness in a separate section of the Doctrine & Covenants, where he says, “…that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.”[12] Centuries earlier, a prophet who had seen and communed with Christ, echoes these words in the concluding chapters of the Book of Mormon where he writes, “…all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil … that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.”[13]

While we may conjecture and postulate what it is about the false light sources which distracts and leads astray the moths in their nocturnal flight patterns, the scriptures have laid out a formula and method whereby we can avoid similar distractions.  According to the scriptures discussed previously, what we must do is find those things which “enticeth to do good” and to serve God.  In so doing, we will find the “light which shineth in the darkness” (which shineth in [us], though we comprehend it not).

A friend of mine, in an email, stated the following in discussing the opening verses of Alma chapter 41 (his words are in the brackets):

3 And it is requisite with the ajustice of God that men should be bjudged according to their cworks; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be drestored unto that which is good. [good = happiness]

4 And if their works are evil they shall be arestored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be brestored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—cmortality raised to dimmortality, ecorruption to incorruption—raised to fendless happiness to ginherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—

5 The one raised to ahappiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; [good = happiness] and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.

6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.

aThese are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, [of Hell – or our current state of mind] that are delivered from that endless night of darkness [which is in our own minds]; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.

As verse seven describes, those who are redeemed of the Lord, are taken out [of hell – or our current blinded state of mind; our current false paradigms; our current skewed individual universes] and are delivered from that “endless night” of darkness [again, in our own minds].  As we seek the true source of light, discussed in the above scriptures, we will lay hold of every good thing and be led to the:

“…light which shineth, which giveth [us] light, is through Him who enlightened [our] eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth [our] understandings; … which is in all things, which given life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed…for intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light…”[14]

Let us shun the darkness and cleave unto the Light.  It is the only way.  He is the only way.


[1] Robert Lanza, M.D.  Anything Beyond the Universe?  New Theory Changes Our Destinyhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/anything-beyond-the-unive_b_455260.html.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[2] Cecil Adams.  Why are moths attracted to bright lights? http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1071/why-are-moths-attracted-to-bright-lights.  01/27/1989.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Why are Moths Attracted to Flame? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12903572.  08/18/2007.  Retrieved 02/09/2010.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Doctrine & Covenants 95:4-6, 12.

[7] See Doctrine & Covenants 11:11, 28.

[8] See Doctrine & Covenants 10:58.

[9] See Doctrine & Covenants 6:21.

[10] See John 8:12.

[11] See Mosiah 29:40.

[12] See Doctrine & Covenants 50:23.

[13] See Moroni 7:12-13.

[14] See Doctrine & Covenants 88:11-13, 40.

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Comments
  1. brett says:

    interesting. you might want to try freelance writing to support your nomadic life. it seems so natural.

    this…really made me think. i have given much thought recently into focus and preparation, both, are similar but separate. focus is key to direct our thoughts, which guides our actions. preparation enables us to recieve answers, guidance or assistance. i liken this to ether 1:34. the brother of jared was highly favored man of the Lord. he was ready or prepared already or ahead of time.

    your post reminded me of focusing upon what i want, or what i want to work towards. focusing upon the false lights will only distract me and take me closer into darkness. so…while it is important to understand what things distract me, i shouldn’t focus too much on that otherwise my distraction will only attract distraction. however, if i focus on that which is good, upon the things that entice me to do good, then i will place all of my focus on light and in the end will attract light.

    it’s good to realize that the light is all around us, that all we need to do is search after Christ, always remembering him and finding ways to see his hand in our life.

  2. brett says:

    the preparation is accomplished by doing what we are doing today. by searching/looking/asking for Christ and his light in our life. the time to prepare to meet God is now. the brother of jared was prepared before he was called upon.

  3. Dear writer:

    I am working on some art pieces where I am considering moths, and read your piece with considerable interest and pleasure.

    I have quoted and linked to you on my blog:

    http://tadeuszderegowski.blogspot.com/2010/03/fear-and-loathing-in-las-vegas-review.html

    If you leave me your name, I can credit you: though I understand you perhaps prefer anonymity.

    All the best,

    Tadeusz

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